Flood victim still in caravan two years on

Author: PA

Phil Benson, 48, has to drink bottled water and use a portable toilet after
flooding hit west and central England on July 20, 2007.

Heavy rain led to flash floods and saw river levels rise, forcing thousands of
people out of their homes, causing £3 billion of damage and leaving 13
people dead.

Mr Benson’s Victorian farmhouse and land in Thrupp, between Gloucestershire
and Oxfordshire, was besieged by water as the River Thames swelled and
rainwater ran off from the towns around him.

Before his house was flooded, he came to the rescue of farmers nearby by
providing forage and transporting livestock to clear ground.

But the home he had lived in for 15 years is now a building site after
everything had to be stripped out.

Mr Benson said delays with his claim being finalised has left him struggling
to run his business as an agricultural contractor from his caravan at the
back of his land.

His insurers Legal and General say that they are awaiting the outcome of a
planning application for an extension to the house to complete the claim.

“There are 80 acres around the house and you could sail a boat on it,” he said.

“Just a couple of inches came into the house but because the walls are so old
they soaked up the water up to about four feet.

“The furniture and carpets were ruined, everything had to come out and we had
to dig up the floors.

“The entire house is now damp and as we have just had the coldest winter and
no heating we had a burst pipe in the roof.”

Mr Benson and his son Sam, 15, stayed in the upstairs of the house for a while
until Sam suffered a viral infection from the damp.

Mr Benson decided to buy the mobile home in February 2008 and Sam now sleeps
on the sofa when he is not at boarding school.

“I am just have a telephone and a fax machine, no internet, which makes it
difficult to run a business,” said Mr Benson, who hopes that he will be back
in his home by Christmas this year.

“All the way through I have been on the promise that I would be back in the
house in a few months.

“At the time I understand that insurance companies were finding it difficult
to handle the volume of claims, but I have been left in disarray, in the
short term you can cope but two years later there is still a long way to go.

“It’s difficult living in this small space, in the summer it is extremely hot
and over the winter it was like an igloo and we had no running water as it
froze.

“It has hampered my business and devastated my personal life.”

A Legal and General spokesman said: “We have been in contact with Mr Benson to
get regular updates on the progress of the building work for the proposed
extension and the required planning permission.

“Our loss adjuster recently visited the property and found that work on the
extension had stopped because the planning permission is still awaited.”

Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire was one of the worst affected areas with most of
the town flooded in July 2007.

Now Tewkesbury Borough Council say that there are still 10 families not living
in their homes, two of them are staying in caravans.

The council said: “There are various reasons why households are still
displaced, some households have chosen to undertake the repair work to their
homes themselves, meaning that the process has taken much longer.

“One common theme is that, due to the demand for local builders, many insurers
appointed builders from Bristol or Wales.

“This meant that while the bulk of the work may have been carried out
satisfactorily by contractors, it proved very difficult to get them to
travel to undertake smaller works and to complete ‘finishing off’.”

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